Chapter 1: Difference And Other Important Matters
The greatest learning I had from the first chapter of the book is the author’s contention that relying on assumptions and stereotypes largely affects how we interact with other people around us. Stereotypes, or widely adopted thoughts about certain kinds of individuals or ways of behaving intended to represent the entire social group where those individuals belong or behaviors (Allen p2). While they are popularly recognized, stereotyped thoughts or beliefs do not always reflect reality accurately. My own life experiences can vouch how stereotypes and social group labels due to our differences can place us either in a disadvantaged or favored situation. The context of difference, in this case, is defined by the categories of gender, age, race, sexuality, ability, and social status. Out of these six categories of difference identified by the author, five of them placed me in a dominant group apart from ability.
Being part of the dominant or more powerful social and cultural group due to those dominant social identity categories, I have experienced discrimination, too. For instance, being predominantly a black male belonging to the middle class, I often receive labels as lazy, stubborn, immature, irresponsible, and not capable of achieving things on my own. This is not the case in reality because I am highly responsible and capable of doing things by myself. Also, I am not lazy and rather prefer to eagerly perform the duties or assignments that are specially tasked for me to complete. However, when I find myself in a group of older, working white American people, I often get to be treated as the opposite and as the negative labels they throw at me. What causes this stereotyping and incorrect assumption of my identity is how other people from different social groups easily dismiss possible discussions about our differences (Allen p7). Indeed, mindful, critical thinking skills in communicating our social identity differentiated by those six categories are very important. It does matter to recognize that we, as individuals, are different from each other and we have to appreciate that to end the history of systemic, socially reproduced inequalities. Here is original essay on difference in critical thinking, mind, race, gender.
Chapter 2: Power Matters
Theoretically speaking, I am fully aware of what power is and how it permeates all human interaction as to how Foucault defines the concept. I am also familiar with the term relations of power and how it manifests in a network of systematic interconnections among people. Yet, what intrigued me is knowing that power resides in every perception and judgment we have, and the act we do (Allen p25). The author’s personal story about the coffee tale perfectly embodies how power dynamics in an organization can manifest through communication. It clearly shows that the statement “that’s the way we do things around here” can be resisted through power relations.
I have a similar account with the coffee tale from someone I used to know who was working in an organization headed by an old powerful, conservative couple. All the staff highly respect them both and follow all their orders unquestionably. However, my lady friend holds a different ideology when it comes to following orders, showing respect, and communicating her beliefs. As a liberated, empowered young woman, she would always ask questions about things before she acts or decides, which many long-time employees find somehow disrespectful. She even wears clothes like miniskirts and body-fit dresses that obviously break the informal, unwritten rules of conservatism in the organization. Despite this, however, the couple seemed not to mind because they know that she is not violating any written employment policies and is performing excellently with her work duties. They even offered her sponsorship for a graduate degree program to prepare her for bigger responsibilities of the organization.
The story above is a great example of how power relations can not only enforce domination but can also empower, liberate, and transform an individual or organizational ideologies and practices. It indeed brings us closer to the ideals of liberty and justice for all and how individuals can use power dynamics to enable this to become a reality.
Chapter 3: Gender Matters
By sexuality, I am male and by gender expectations, I am a masculine man. Expressing my gender occurs in various ways that happened to be the results of societal notions of natural characterizations of men and women (Allen p40). I dress like a man (converse shoes and jersey) talk like a man (loud and confident), and behave like a man (aggressive and cool). I may not be consciously aware of it but I seek to be with other young men who look cool, proud, independent, and competitive and go to a “man’s place” because of my gender. Such place refers to bars, clubs, gyms, and other “masculine” locations. Though I am exposed to all sorts of possible sources and socialization of gender awareness, the greatest influence of my gender association is my father. I was raised in a predominantly patriarchal family where division of labor at home is highly gendered. Domestic chores are the women’s domain while mowing or tending the lawn was a man’s duty. Therefore, I grow up with the same preconceived notions of masculinity and femininity.
With deeply rooted gender identification, I strongly agree that emotional labor is also gendered for the same reason that it is greatly influenced by traditional gender expectations and stereotypes (Allen p60). I have experienced this a lot of times, either as a customer or employee. For example, as a black man winning over a reservation in a hospitality establishment, the male receptionist loudly approached me and said, “Aren’t you supposed to give me a high five?” He did not say, “Wouldn’t you say thank you and smile?” Interestingly though, when I was working in a company, I was expected to remain neutral and not show any negative emotions when confronted by our boss. So, obviously, emotional labor is still deeply gendered.
Chapter 4: Race Matters
It is very apparent that because of my skin color, hair texture, and facial features, collectively called my phenotype, I belong to a racial minority group of Black people. There is no denying that I am indeed Black, born and raised from a family and ancestry of African Americans, which I am proud of. However, as racial identifications are artificial, social constructions to allow white supremacy, being Black living in America always comes with presumptions and stereotypes. Worse is that they are often discriminatory and prejudiced because of how the media portrayed and perpetuated those stereotypes. I personally have experienced many of them in my everyday life as to how McIntosh revealed her list of white privileges. These stereotypes against me as Black include being judged as lazy, submissive, backward, lewd, dishonest, treacherous, child-like, and unclean. I was also maltreated and mistakenly alleged for violence by just simply being a Black male roaming around at night time somewhere in the neighborhood.
Fortunately, despite those negative and oftentimes harsh discriminations and stereotypes against me, I do believe that my life matters, too. I can strongly associate to what the author meant in saying that “the concept of black pride was an empowering force against internalized oppression” (Allen p66). I think she refers to the idea that despite the centuries-old of systemic and institutionalized racial prejudice committed against the Black people, celebrating and embracing our Black race, culture and African heritage is powerful. As Blacks, we have been enslaved even before the New World and oppressed and discriminated upon systematically. But by taking pride in our unique and different racial origins as Black or African-American people, we stand strong together in battling white racism and promote our liberation. Definitely, race does matter because it remains a socially significant organizing principle of our lives, no matter what our racial identity is.
Allen, Brenda J. Difference matters: Communicating social identity. 2nd edition. Waveland Press
Inc. Illinois, 2011.